Tuesday, 24 January 2017

N&R: Leica M10 & Fuji X100F

Over the last week, both Fuji and Leica announced new cameras; which is somewhat interesting as, for some inexplicable reasons, a lot of people (Fuji users) like to compare their cameras to Leica.

Not a Fuji


Not a rangefinder
The forth iteration of the X100 line, the X100F has been announced. This is interesting enough as the X100, with it's rangefinder styling, would seem to be the camera that started the whole Leica/Fuji comparisons. No doubt aided along by a 'review' by a certain blogger (that never even owned or reportedly used a Leica) involving a bar.

However, as an ex-X100 owner, I can see little on offer to tempt me back. The joystick control is a definite improvement, but the whole one set of controls for whole stop changes, and separate dials for 1/3rd stops adjustments, remains. This was about the most unergonomic methods of control I've ever used - and I use Sony!

When I've used a Leica M with the half stops on the physical shutter speed and aperture dials everything was smooth and simple and allows you to focus on photography. Changing shutter speed and aperture with the Fuji required you to move your fingers between four sets of controls and you had to remember which extra dial is for aperture 1/3 stop adjustments and and which is for shutter speed 1/3 stop adjustments. This was about the best method they could have come up with to make you feel disconnected to the camera. You have to look at the physical control to see your whole stop settings, then back to the screen to check your finer adjustments!

Meanwhile, Fuji still hasn't updated the soft wide open lens or the potential for dust in the viewfinder.

Although they come in at 3 times the price, I find the Leica Q and Sony RX1R II much more compelling cameras.

In other news, Fuji also announced the X-T20 and a new weather resistant 50mm f2 lens. Still, if it's an APS-C only system, I would have thought 55mm is a better length for a lens as it would be closer to the 85mm FF equivalent.

And, the final bit of Fuji news is the availability of their mirrorless MF camera, the Fuji GFX-50S. It is expected to ship in late February with a price-tag of 6,500USD.


So, as people seem to love comparing Fuji and Lecia, for about the same price as the medium format Fuji GFX-50S, you could instead purchase the new Leica M10.

When the Leica M Type 240 was announced in 2012, Leica said they would no longer be numbering their cameras as before. From their own press release:
The Leica M also marks the beginning of a new era in the Leica product naming policy. In future, Leica M and S model names will omit the number suffix to emphasize the enduring and long-term significance of the respective systems.
Good job, guys! Comparing the M10 to the Typ 240, it seems the main two points of interest are that they've killed off the video functionality and have managed to slim down the digital M to the same dimensions of the M6 film camera.

The other great addition, which I maintain should have been in the M8 onwards, is the addition of a physical ISO dial.

A few years ago, when I had the chance to test out and handle a Leica M9 and an M Typ 240, the size difference was noticeable. And honestly, it did make the M9 both look more handsome, and feel better in the hand. The M10 is thinner than either.

So, once more, a Leica is tempting me. I considered a Leica Monochrome and I nearly pulled the trigger on an M9 and probably would have just done that if it wasn't for an uninterested and unhelpful salesman. So, would I get an M10?

Probably no. There's still a few things, other than cost, that turn me off.

Firstly, is the add-on electronic viewfinder. I've tried to focus a 50mm f/0.95 Noctilux with an M9, and it just isn't practical. I even had users telling me I needed to focus bracket if I wanted to make sure I got the shot. So, for a camera where the range finder mechanism is close to useless for extreme wide angle lenses, telephoto lenses, macro lenses and can require somewhat frequent calibration to be accurate, I consider live view an essential feature. Having a hybrid viewfinder a la Fuji X100, would be a brilliant addition.

Secondly, although having to remove the entire bottom plate to change battery or swap SD cards is just an annoyance, not having dual SD cards slots in a high-end camera is close to unforgivable these days (Sony - I'm looking at you too!).

Thirdly, I've come to love IBIS cameras a little too much these days. I sometimes found myself preferring my Sony A7R2 over the RX1R2 for just that reason. Admittedly, adding IBIS to a Leica may be considered sacrilege to the existing user base.

Finally, for the price they are commanding, they really should use a better sensor. If Sony won't give them access to their 42MP BSI sensor from the A7R2, you'd think they could at least get the excellent 36mp sensor used in the Nikon D800 series.

Another point of interest is the removal of video. Although it may seem an odd feature on a rangefinder, it's removal stinks more of a style choice than one of necessity.

Still, if you love a real rangefinder camera and are a digital photographer, there is surely nothing else out there that can compete with this.

Leica vs Fuji

Just something I wanted to touch on is the ridiculous comparison of Fuji and Leica cameras.

A recent comment from the DP Review forums struck a chord (for all quotes here, emphasis is mine):
Whenever they review a new Leica the two types of people who respond are
1) people who hate Leica and would never buy one so they just troll.
2) Fuji owners who somehow have to justify that their cameras are just as good as Leica but are so much cheaper and also troll.
Fuji makes some nice cameras, but judging by these forums one would have to conclude that Fuji users are universally insecure, bitter, and poor.
One of the earliest examples I can remember of this was from a review of the original Leica Monochrom:
My Fuji X100S laughs at this.
Which got this well considered reply:
Really? Sounds like you have not used the Leica. While photos from both may look similar at this small web size, a decent sized print would show a dramatic difference. The Leica Monochrom resolves detail more like a medium format camera. It also is a true rangefinder. It also allows the use of the extensive, wonderful line of Leica M glass. 
While the fuji is an excellent camera, the only laughing it would be doing is a nervous, envious laugh. Seriously. I own a Monochrom and and Xpro. I have pixel peeped and printed from both and the Leica is is a class of it's own.
Fuji users - your cameras are good, and some are rangefinder styled, but they are not rangefinders. I've owned a Fuji X100, and used a Leica M9, and although they may look a little similar, using them is completely different. The real Leica competitor to the Fuji X100 is the Leica Q. However, if you compare them, other than the cheaper price, it isn't going to be good news for the Fuji.

If you really want to compare like for like, compare your Fuji to Sony, Panasonic and Olympus. Even comparing to Nikon and Canon makes more sense. Personally, I feel each and everyone of these manufacturers makes good cameras, with pros and cons which can lead you to the one that is right for you.

And remember, just because you love your camera doesn't mean it loves you back.

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